With Wednesday’s announcement of the $147 million sale of Convention Place Station and the end of buses in the transit tunnel by 2019, the way is now paved for the $1.4 billion Washington State Convention Center expansion to open in 2020. Another nearby project of even larger scope might soon take smaller steps toward joining the new convention center wing in improving the connection between downtown and Capitol Hill.
Small steps is the way architect Christopher Patano, the man who wants to put a lid over the I–5, believes the 45-acre urbanist’s fantasy park can eventually become reality. Patano believes crowdfunding is his next step.
Patano’s architecture studio is carrying forward the seemingly quixotic idea to construct a lidded park over the interstate. The plan would cover the stretch of I–5 from First Hill all the way up to the Roanoke exit with a public, two-mile park. Patano’s plan would also include an expanded meeting facility, a hotel and an arena.
Ever since he made the first pitch, Patano said that the response has been overwhelmingly positive and the studio is ready to move forward. The studio has the ideas — now it needs the money.
“The next step is trying to secure some funding to do the next level of engineering and design,” he told CHS in late October. “Teaming with engineers to get into the structural approach for the lid. We need a little bit of money to dive into the technical issues. We know they’re solvable.”
Specifically, he said the next step is just to further the design into a more comprehensive proposal, where all of the technical specifications and engineering questions have been ironed out.
For Patano, the large idea needs a bottom up approach. At least at the beginning.
“This is really a crowd-sourced idea,” he said. “There are a lot of projects around that world that are bottom up. Suddenly people see it and think, ‘This is a good idea.’”
In that vein, he said the studio wants to launch a crowd funding campaign to raise money for the I–5 lid design from the ground up. He admitted that such a large scale operation would eventually have to find local, state and federal funding. But, for this next stages of design enrichment, he believed that his studio could find that funding directly from the people who believe in such a plan.
“We don’t need to raise money for the whole project,” Patano said. “We just need to raise money for this next step and we’re gearing up to talk about anyone that wants to talk about it.”
And so, the obvious question is: How much to design the project?
“I don’t know yet,” Patano said. “We don’t need to design the whole thing. We need street studies, traffic studied, just to push the whole design forward. I’d say $500,000 — conversationally, that is.”
“Really everything in our proposal is going to happen,” he said. “The convention center, the expanded housing, the arena and I–5 will have to be rebuilt. Washington’s Department of Transportation knows more than anyone that it will have to be rebuilt.”
To that end, he’s tried to fend off those nagging questions of how much it would cost to build a 45-acre park over an urban interstate.
“The first thing we’re going to try to deflect is, ‘How much is this going to cost?’” Patano said. “Well, WSDOT, you’re going to age to rebuild the freeway anyway. Why don’t we plan this out and give you more time to do so? That’s why I like this crowdsourced, bottom-up approach.”
Eventually, even with support from the “crowd,” an I-5 lid will need to find a civic path to existence. So far, no Seattle or state politician has embraced the idea and wedging the massive project into the convention center expansion’s “public benefits” negotiations would require a massive political push.
Patano says the support the idea has received, though, has only strengthened his resolve. He says there is a contingent of developers, design professionals and people within City Hall — though he wouldn’t name names — who approached his studio in support of the idea.
“I thought we’d hear more pushback, but nine out of ten comments have been positive,” Patano said. “So, it seems like it’s worthwhile.”
UPDATE 11/23/15 9:00 PM: This is interesting. The last item on Tuesday’s City Council transportation committee meeting agenda? Lidding Interstate-5 Near Washington State Convention Center Expansion
Meeting begins at 9:30 AM Tuesday. You can drop committee chair Tom Rasmussen an email here.